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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Father Of Slain Woman Lobbies For Mental Health Laws

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Gary Kennison, right, and Kristen Otoupalik, left, help state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, introduce a mental health-related bill named in honor of Kennison's murdered daughter Sheena Henderson.

The father of a Spokane woman shot to death by her husband in a murder-suicide is pushing for expanded mental health laws in Washington.

Sheena Henderson was killed last July at work – a day after her husband’s suicidal behavior drew the attention of police. Monday her father Gary Kennison spoke with reporters at the Capitol in Olympia.

“One of the toughest things that I had to do was I had to stand before my two grandchildren and tell them that their parents were no longer going to come home, that they went to heaven,” he said. “You look in the eyes of a six and nine year old and it’s devastating.”

Kennison is now urging lawmakers to allow family members to petition a court to involuntarily commit a loved one. That proposal is known as “Joel’s Law” after a mentally ill Seattle man who was shot by police.

Kennison also supports two other proposed laws that have been introduced in his daughter’s name. One would provide follow-up evaluations for individuals who are potentially suicidal. The other would require that police notify families when they return a firearm to someone who was previously mentally unstable.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."